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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Viral Nation
by Shaunta Grimes
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.
Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.
When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.
I received an eARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Sixteen year old Clover, a highly functioning autistic teen, and her older brother, West, live in a post-apocalyptic U.S. Sixteen years earlier, a virus wiped out most of the world's population and now survivors live in walled cities (there are fifty in the U.S.), and must rely on a daily dose of meds to keep the virus from returning. This miracle cure was brought back from two years into the future and distributed by the Company, and now the Company controls the country, its rations; jobs; and rules. Clover earns a coveted spot at the Waverly-Stead Academy, but when she refuses to part with her beloved service dog, Mango, she is denied entrance into the Academy and is instead drafted as a Time Mariner, where she is sent two years into the future to bring back news and information. But when her brother's life is endangered, they must go on the run, go up against the powerful Company, and maybe even start a revolution.

Shaunta Grimes' Viral Nation is an innovative, highly entertaining read with a great mix of post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and sci-fi elements. There's so much about this book that I really liked- from the fresh premise, memorable heroine, and smart storytelling, Viral Nation kept me thoroughly enthralled.

The post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting and premise is shocking enough to be interesting and entertaining, but never feels unbelievable or illogical. The way the U.S and its people, government, and structure react and change because of the catastrophic virus makes total sense; this is a bleak and highly controlled future world that could actually happen. This believable premise, along with Grimes' complex and well thought-out world-building, make for a truly captivating story. From the very first pages of the prologue I was hooked, and the unexpected twists and thought-provoking material kept the storyline fresh and kept me intrigued from beginning to end.

Clover is a memorable and refreshingly different kind of YA heroine. Her autism clearly sets her apart from other YA heroines, but in ways that may surprise readers. I'm always for heroines and heroes who are different and unique in ways that often leave them ignored or looked over and are given the chance to shine. These kinds of heroines are especially important and needed in YA, so that's one reason why I loved Clover. But I also loved the fantastic way Clover is depicted and used in Viral Nation. Clover's autism has an organic and logical purpose for the storyline and isn't simply used to make her stand out. And the author's thorough knowledge about autism and autistic children gives Clover a wonderful authenticity. But her autism doesn't define Clover either; her intelligence, courage, resilience, and curiosity make her such a likable and believable heroine. One of the most important relationships in the book is between Clover and her service dog, Mango, and Grimes does a great job of creating such a deep, loving, and profound bond between these two.

I only had one real issue with Viral Nation, an issue that kept me from giving it 5 cupcakes, and that issue deals with the time traveling aspects of the story. The actual idea of only being able to time travel two years into the future and back, and its purpose to the story, were cool, however, the mechanics behind the time traveling and its effects were a bit confusing and lacking. This issue obviously didn't keep me from really enjoying the rest of the book though.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Viral Nation is an entertaining and addicting debut with an unforgettable heroine. Shaunta Grimes is a fresh new writing talent who has definitely gained a fan in me. I will impatiently be awaiting book two!



Shaunta Grimes
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada.

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